The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has published draft rules and regulations that seek to open the state’s offshore to seismic testing and leasing primarily south of the barrier islands, which is about nine to 10 miles from its shoreline.

The rules, if approved, would allow seismic and leasing activities on approximately 186,000 acres offshore Mississippi, MDA spokesman Dan Turner told NGI Tuesday. However, the vast majority of the Mississippi Sound will continue to be off-limits under the new rules, as it has been since 2004.

It’s estimated that about 350-380 Bcf of natural gas resources are located in the areas that the state legislature has approved for exploration and development, he said. But seismic surveys will provide a more accurate estimate of the size and distribution of Mississippi’s offshore resources, MDA noted.

In 2004 the Mississippi legislature placed 62% of the state’s offshore acreage out of the reach of producers when it restricted leasing in the Mississippi Sound.

The new rules are subject to a 20-day public comment period, to be followed by a public hearing, Turner said. If the rules are finalized, there would be a 30-day waiting period before they would go into effect.

“Offshore natural gas exploration and production will help us meet our nation’s energy needs while generating jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for education and conservation here in Mississippi,” said Gov. Haley Barbour.

“Now is the time to look toward our future and join our neighboring states in leasing offshore mineral rights to allow for the responsible production of our natural gas resources,” said MDA Executive Director Leland Speed.

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